Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement:

Yoga, Dance and Mindfulness for Every(body).


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Book Review by Eve: Triangle by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen

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I was thrilled to receive my copy of Triangle. Right from the get-go, I loved it! The book itself is a great design/shape and I love the thick board book covers that encase this signature Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen tale. The words are simple, great for new readers and read aloud, and each accompanying illustration enriches the story with beautiful layering of the shapes, with their earthy tones and marbled textures.

Mac Barnett has a wry sense of humor and his book is full of questioning possibilities, as each page turns, allowing the reader to guess what is coming next and to be either confirmed or surprised by the outcome. This book offers lessons in simple geometry, proprioception (knowing where you are in space) and the art of friendship. This book is great for kids and even hipsters, as it will look great on any coffee table!

How will I use this book?

I will use this book in my adaptive yoga program to discuss the geometry of poses!

  1. Triangle Pose:
  • Standing (alone, using a chair for balance, against a wall)
  • Seated in a chair (leg crossed at the ankle or the knee)
  • Seated on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  • Lying down on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  1. Square Pose: What can you fit into a square shape?

*Note: Blocks can be used in any of the variations to rest the foot on. In cases of extreme immobility, either gently guide the person into a variation that suits their body where they can enjoy the energetic benefits of the pose. Even just touching the area (left or right; inner or outer thigh) can bring their attention to that spot and thereby give them the benefit too.

Full Disclosure: Candlewick Press sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

AlwaysBeDancing dot com


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Book Review by Eve: Windows by Julia Denos; Illustrations by E. B. Goodale

9780763690359This charming picture book is partly an I-Spy. By reading the simple text, the reader can search for the related images on the pages, but it is also so much more. The worlds revealed through the windows create the opportunity for the reader to invent their own stories. Like putting together a puzzle, piece-by-piece, as the changing light of the day counter-posed with the the lighting of the indoor lights heightens the view from the streets outside,  the windows allow pieces of the inhabitants to be revealed.  This book, that’s words create interest in the world around accompanied by the richly colored and finely detailed illustrations, can help pique the readers own interests in discovering this great big wonderful world. These windows, teeming with similarities as well as differences, offer a glimpse into the unknown, making it friendly and inviting. Differences make us the same as much as the similarities! I highly recommend this book. It is creative and special. 

How will I use this book?

This is a lovely book with a message of peace and acceptance. It is a perfect book to include in my youth yoga program as a jumping off point for creating yoga poses out of what we see in the story. I allow the kids to pick anything they see and create a yoga pose from it. There are some recognizable ones, like tree, cat and dog (downward facing or puppy dog), but kids can also make poses from bicycles, hanging clothes and star-burst clocks! The talking points revolve around acceptance, feeling of security and peace.

Windows meditation:

  • Start seated or laying down and take in a few deep breaths.
  • Feel your breath coming in and out through your nose.
  • Focus your breath into your belly.
  • Let yourself go and allow yourself to rest calmly.
  • Imagine a window in front of you. You could be standing inside, looking-out or outside, looking-in.
  • Through this window you will see yourself having happy times. These happy times can be with your family, with friends, by yourself or with an animal; they can be from vacations or at home; they can be of your favorite place to relax; they can be indoors or outdoors; they can be real and they can be imagined.
  • Now settle your eyes on one happy moment. It does not have to be your favorite one just anyone your eyes rest on. Think about this happy time…how old were you? What’s the temperature? The smell? The colors?
  • Let your self be wrapped up by all the sensations of this moment. You are safe, loved and relaxed.
  • Inside each one of us, we carry images that can help us to feel grounded, focused and thankful. Bringing these images up during difficult moments can allow us to find the peace and stillness we have inherent inside each one of us.

    This book was sent to me by Candlewick Press. All opinions are my own.

     

    AlwaysBeDancing dot com


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Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

(Included at the end is a classroom/home assignment: How to make a Happiness Collector)

Funded by both Dance In the Schools and Friends of Baldwin, I am thrilled to be back for my sixth year at the Maria Baldwin Elementary School, Cambridge, MA, teaching my own Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement program with their amazing second grade classrooms. This year, they have three second-grade classrooms and I am able to see each group 5 times. Having this opportunity to grow each year with the students and staff is priceless. Also, I love seeing the past participants who are now in third, fourth or fifth grade. Whenever they see me, they jump into tree pose or even strike a flamenco pose (as I also integrate my program with flamenco). This school has great community spirit and I love the diversity and how it is celebrated.

Good Behavior In Yoga:

Good Behavior In Yoga Class:

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I deliver the rules verbally, also pointing out that they can read along that there is a picture for each rule that shows what I am asking them to do. That way there are many ways to help them remember the rules.

  1. I stay on my mat. This is so each child has personal space. We take a moment to look at our mats, the size, the color… I asked them to think of a color that makes them feel happy. Holding an imaginary Hula Hoop, we then cover our whole mat, including ourselves, with a bubble of this color. Inside our bubble we feel happy, good and safe.

  2. I listen with my ears. That way they can hear the directions that are being given

  3. I watch what my yoga teacher is doing. I remind them that I will most likely being doing what I am asking them to do, so if they watch me, they will always know what is being asked of them.

  4. I try my best to do each yoga activity. Yoga is about trying, noticing, feeling. Just give things a try and if you need help…

  5. If I need help, I can ask my yoga teacher. If one child needs an adaptation of an activity, we all do it. Its just something else to try!

  6. If I need a break, I can take Child’s Pose or I can sit quietly on my mat. OK…a big one. I stop everything here and I go through and teach what I call the “three resting poses” First, I teach Child’s Pose, have everyone take a breath or two to feel this pose in their bodies. Then we roll forward onto our bellies, for Crocodile Pose, everyone needs belly-time! Once again a few breaths to feel the pose. Then we flip over onto our backs, and I teach Gingerbread Man Cookie Pose. This is the traditional savasana pose. Take our breaths. When we all sit back up, I ask them to think about which pose was the most restful for them because I will ask them later during class to do that pose.

  7. I use a quiet voice. Enough said!

  8. I keep my hands to myself. (OK this one should really be up by “staying on your mat” That will be on the updated poster!) Here I bring back the color bubble. Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pop anyone’s bubble….img_6145

After the rules (I only do this one time but I bring the board each week as a reminder, classes started with belly breathing. A great way to begin! I am a strong believer of breathing in and out through the nose, as an exhale with the mouth actually feels like a balloon that is losing air too fast (insert “balloon deflating too rapidly” sound here….FFFRRRAAPFT). I encourage breathing in through the nose, as if you are smelling a lovely flower and then letting the air gently leave through the nose on the exhale. It is more calming this way. Of course, there are two exceptions. If you have a cold/allergy or if you feel nervous and it makes you uncomfortable to breath that way.

One reason I bring yoga into classrooms is to help students and teachers that yoga is an accessible safe choice towards embodying self-control. Yoga is all about the self. Yoga is all about what it feels like inside your body. Only the individual knows what is feel like because no one else is inside another person’s being. The individual knows what is safe, what makes them feel good and how to calm themselves down. With increased self control, classrooms can flow more smoothly and teachers do not have to be noise/distraction monitors. For sure, yoga is not a cure-all, but it is one very accessible, adaptable and enjoyable tool for a person’s emotional intelligence tool kit.

Class begins with the ringing of the chime. Sometimes the best way to start class is form a relaxed and calm position to pave the way for better focused minds, bodies and energy. We inhale on the ring and allow the slow breath to release as we listen to the echo of the sound. Each child gets a turn. And with each chime, we focus our attention on the sound and on our breathing.

I will continue to use the bell as a way to bring back focus to the class. I want them to understand the difference between silent and noisy and stillness and movement. We all get a bit noisy, making silly sounds, talking, wiggling and then suddenly I ring the bell. The room quiets down. Of course, I made need to ring it again, but usually one ring is enough. Sometimes I play with the level intensity at which I ring the chime (loud vs soft), so they really have to be alert for its sound.

What is yoga?

Group 1

  • stretching

  • feeling relaxed

  • relaxing moves

  • movement

  • flexible

Group 2

  • calm down

  • stretching

  • getting flexible*

Group 3

  • relaxed & feeling good

  • stretch to become flexible

  • breathing to calm

  • de-stress

  • peaceful

  • floating

Each class came up with similar responses, but the one I really liked was “getting flexible”. I love how it implies an opportunity for growth, for change. Just what yoga is about!

Jumping right into a short sequence:

Cow/Cat (adding moos and meows)

Downward Facing Dog (with barks)

Cobra (with hisses)

Child’s Pose (giving hand options to help the children figure out what feels best for them: under the forehead, fist-on-fist or hands by feet, palms up)

Now asking the students if doing  that little bit of yoga make them feel calm/good/happy or like they were getting more flexible? I refer back to the word list they created and use them. I often throw in the question, “Is being able to touch your toes or do a backbend the only way to show that you are flexible? You might need to direct them away from more physical action descriptions for flexibility then someone can come up with alternative ways to be flexible (i.e. mind, energy)

One of my favorite yoga books and the one I have been using the longest is My Daddy Is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste. It is a great kicking off point for basic yoga poses.

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The kids think the title is hysterical and I immediately tell them to create their own version of a pretzel yoga pose: tie yourself up, twist and curl any which way.

What I have found is that the real focus of the book is in the varied types of jobs the children in the story say that their parents do each day. There is a gardener (tree), vet (downward facing dog), architect, (triangle), pilot (airplane), builder (bridge), farmer (plow), marine biologist (fish), works in Africa (lion), baker (pretzel). These jobs open up our ability to talk about what these job’s actually mean you do and kids either know or can piece together these answers by looking at the accompanying pictures. To make my teaching fully inclusive and to make sure I can make any adaptation necessary, I teach going into and out of poses my own way, so I do not use the accompanying pose descriptions. That way I can adapt and grow each pose organically with the group, rather than follow a set path. At the end, of course, we get to try another “make-your-own” pretzel pose. Lots of laughs and then I offer up the resting pose choice. We take a short resting moment.

One of my favorite moving meditations is “Yogini Went To Sea” by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (for only $9.99 you can buy the album Happy through iTunes). Shakta is the first children’s yoga teacher I studied with and she taught me the invaluable lesson of allowing your self to grow with each experience and also, she recorded the only recorded yoga songs that I use in my classes! 

Classroom/Home Assignment: Create a Happiness Collector.

A Happiness Collector is a jar, bucket, basket or any other receptacle you choose where you put in small piece of paper that have on them written or drawn things that make you happy. These things can be anything that make you happy. They can be something that you did, that you saw or that you had done to you.

  1. Choose your Happiness Collector

  2. Every day take a moment to remember something that made you happy.

  3. Write it down or draw it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper.

  4. Put it into your Happiness Collector.

  5. Messages can be read whenever a bit of sunshine is needed, at the end of a week etc…

Children can be prompted with a phrase such as “I feel happy when I _________.

Thank you!

Ole! Namaste!


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Book Review: Sitting On A Chicken by Michael Chissick

sitting-on-a-chickenI was so excited to receive my copy of Sitting On A Chicken, The Best Ever Yoga Games To Teach In Schools by Michael Chissick. I discovered Mr. Chissick awhile back when I reviewed Seahorse’s Magic Sun Sequence, how all children (and sea creatures) can use yoga to feel positive, confident and completely included. What I like most about his work is his focused attention on how to make activities wholly inclusive. In Sitting On A Chicken, using clear lesson plans, complete with intentions and learning objectives, Michael shares highly accessible yoga and mindfulness games to implement into your classrooms. Mr. Chissick is very imaginative and has created some very original, fun-filled yoga games that teach mindfulness. These games are designed to be all inclusive to ensure “that all children are included irrespective of needs, culture, shape, mood or size”. I could not say that any better!

I highly recommend this book. It can be used by anyone from parents to teachers to childcare workers who are looking for fun, play centered ways to bring yoga and mindfulness to all children and with added ingenuity can be adapted for all age groups and all needs. The beautiful illustrations by Sarah Peacock are cheerful, understandable and just make you happy!

Full Disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review: Growing Up Mindful by Christopher Willard, PSYD

bk04652-growing-up-mindful-published-cover_1I was pleased to receive the book Growing Up Mindful from the author, Christopher Willard, PSYD. As I have become increasingly more focused on bringing mindfulness into situations where mindfulness might not be readily available, such as in schools, offices, and  with the special needs populations, I have enjoyed the wide array of books on the practical applications of mindfulness, that I can adapt to my needs. Dr. Willard is at the top of the game. This book was really user-friendly with just enough scientific knowledge mixed with common sense. A dream book of ideas to help create a sense of balance, ease and flexibility in your life, that of your family and also to those around you. From the excellent mindfulness exercises to the practical advice, Dr. Willard offers creative and useful scripts, examples and ideas on how to bring mindfulness into your day. I highly recommend this book. It is an excellent tool for anyone: parent, teacher, and boss who wants to help young people bring mindfulness into their lives.

He also has an audio companion to his book available on Sounds True and a great set of Growing Mindful card deck that features 50 unique mindfulness activities to teach awareness, how to be present in the moment, and cultivate kindness & curiosity. Perfect for all ages! 514xcamlnel-_ac_ul320_sr192320_

As a special treat, here is a YouTube link to Dr. Willard’s TedX – Growing Up Stressed or Growing Up Mindful?

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of Growing Up Mindful. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review: The Mindful School Leader: Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School by Valerie Brown and Kristen Olson

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I am a yoga and mindfulness teacher working in my local public school district and community and I can say first hand that the need for mindful school leaders is much needed. To create the conditions for a successful learning environment, first the infrastructure must be healthy and well-balanced.

This book is a must for every principal, teacher, paraprofessional-everyone who comes in contact with the school environment, so that they can be the active change they want to see within their own classrooms, school and community at large. This book is a veritable repository that is highlighted by extremely well documented support research and case studies making this project so real and accessible. The subjects of the case studies give voice to the possibility and proof that mindfulness can work. The provided mindfulness scripts are very handy, even offering scripts that are as short as 30 seconds!

I really appreciated how this book showed mindfulness in-motion/in-action; showing how accessible it is in our everyday lives-it’s just there-go ahead and grab it! I highly recommend this book-hop on it and find the groove that you are seeking. We are all leaders at one time or another. That is why this book is for you!

Full Disclosure: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own


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Eve’s Awesome Yoga comes to Early Education Alliance of Framingham and Ashland

IMG_0269Emotional Health: is the ability to deal with your emotions in a way that is healthy for you and for those around you. Social-emotional development influences all areas of development,  from intellectual to  motor to interpersonal skills. To feel strong within your own skin, there needs to be a balance between the information you take in, and then your ability to healthfully ingest, digest, absorb and expel it.   The greatest challenges lie in being able to communicate even when dealing with the strongest emotions, such as anger, frustration and sorrow. It is natural to feel these emotions, but how we respond to them is what separates us. Laying a path to healthy emotional security is being able to acknowledge the varied feelings you have, but being able to respond rather than just automatically react is what will help you remain strong, confident and flexible in difficult situations. If you, as an adult, can demonstrate this to your child, you will help them learn by mirroring a natural and comfortable way  to express their emotions without harm.

Craft: “Breathing” Dragons: Since the activity before class was for such young children, I modified the craft. We took paper coffee cups and cut out a large hole in the bottom. Then each child, with the help of a parent/caregiver, if needed, put glue around the inside mouth of the cup and then glued strips of colored tissue paper flowing out of the cup. There were small pompoms for eyes, some kids used two eyes, some three, and even a few ones. When finished, we put them aside to dry and then gathered in the yoga area.

Ringing the Chime: Calm, quiet breathing. We ring the bell, gently swinging the two sides of the chime together. Take a breath in with your nose, like you are smelling a flower, cookies baking, fresh mowed grass, and slowly allow the breath to seep out your nose, a soft stream just trickling out through your nostrils, as the bell continues to echo. Carefully pass the chimes to the next person, trying not to make any sounds in between. Of course there are many types of chimes and bells that can be used. I like these chimes, because of their weight and their sound. Kids really enjoy being able to do this themselves and I find that all children can do it alone, given enough time and to assist only when needed. It is very rewarding for them and its fun! I strongly suggest that any person sharing the experience should take a try and ring the chimes. That means teachers, parents, kids…we even gently chimed them in front of any babies present and they connected to the sound immediately and smiles lit up on their tiny faces!g loud, quiet…pp347

Demo Strong vs Soft breathing (cannot/can blow out candle): Usually I focus only on breathing in and out of the nose during yoga, but for this exercise, we took a breath in with our noses and then out with our mouths. For the “soft” breath out, we did a gentle exhale, one that would not blow out a candle. For the “strong” breath, we exhaled fiercely.

Breathing: STOP acronym for parents and care givers: S” Stop; “T” Take a few deep, calming breaths; “O” Observe yourself and the situation at hand so that you can respond rather than react; “P” Proceed.

Hoberman Sphere:  (the link in this title shows the sphere in action) This is the best all around visual breathing assistant. When it opens, you inhale and imagine you belly expanding; then as you exhale, let it close as your belly softens. It works for all ages and all abilities. Kids love to use the ball, as do adults. The Hoberman sphere is a structure resembling a geodesic dome, and which can fold down to a fraction of its normal size. The scissor-like action of its joints enables it to do this. If you look at it closely you can see a pattern in how its structured.  It is made up of triangles and hexagons (the regular sized toy, that is.) It is a beautiful toy both aesthetically and structurally. It is truly a mesmerizing toy where form follows function. 

Butterfly Sequence w/ Fly Like A Butterfly: Sit with bottom of feet touching. Gently flap the legs and sing: Fly like a butterfly, fly like a butterfly, fly like a butterfly up so high (two times); Next place hands together by the side of the head to represent “sleeping” and sing a little more softly: Sleep like a butterfly, (switch hands to other side of the head) sleep like a butterfly, (switch one more time) sleep like a butterfly through the night (repeat, this time sing as quietly as possible and then even just move lips and say words); hands go behind you now on the floor and you sing more robustly: Soar like a butterfly (lift up right leg and put it down), soar like a butterfly (lift up left leg and put it down), soar like a butterfly up so high (Both legs up-body is being held up by hands on the floor) (second time through at the part when both legs are up, try to release hands from the floor and even try to flap like butterfly wings) color-3B-butterfly%2872%29[1]

Little White Duck: Use the book that is based on the Raffi song (Here I interject that I highly recommend Raffi for his great kids music. He sings folk songs and is utterly appealing to kids and not bad on the ears for adults. Also, Dan Zanes. Love love love his kids music.) It is a simple book with an accompanying song. ..There’s a little white duck sitting in the water, a little white duck, doing what he oughta…In the book you have duck pose (squat and flap wings and say quack quack quack), take a bite of the lily pad (make a bite sound and rub your tummy), frog pose with hopping and ribbits (then have them jump back to their lily pads-whatever their space marker is), bug pose (lie on back with feet and hands in the air and say buzz buzz buzz); snake pose (on you belly, add hissing and squiggling); when there is no one left in the water, we all pretend to cry, boo hoo hoo. In the song their is the refrain “I’m glad” and I always cue the kids to sing with me at this part, “I’m g…….!” This book is full of fun onomatopoeia for kids!  Little-White-Duck-9780316733977

Breathing Dragons: Get your (now dried) Dragon Breath craft. Strong breaths. Soft breaths. I once again talked about the differences between  strong, happy, athletic breath and soft, calm, relaxing breath. The strong breaths really whip up the tissue paper, making the dragon breath fire. The soft breath, a gentle rustle is all.

Mindful Movement Series:  Here I combine flowing yoga poses, rhythmic passages on the feet, clapping, snapping, counting. Doing things with a flowing sense of synchronicity in a group, is a feel good activity. The movement, the community, and  the rhythm all blend together for a fun, positive experience. I like to use a variety of songs, but some of my favorites include: Sleep Tonight (Junior Boys Remix) by Stars; All That Meat And No Potatoes by Fats Waller; Tangos De Mi Novia by Son De La FronteraIMG_8293

I Am Happy: Verse based meditation technique. Combines vocalization of the affirmations good and happy, the vowel sounds and some laughter yoga. See Eve’s Awesome Mini Yogi Yoga comes to Mini Miracles Childcare Center, Framingham, MA 

Yogini Went To Sea (click this title for a link to the video): The greatest standby song/dance/meditation on the planet. It combines tapping, repetition, a fun sound track (by my dear friend Shakta Khalsa) and many many giggles. By singing and dancing, your mind is focused in the moment, adding an element of mind calming). The words are: Yogini went to sea, sea sea; to see what she could see, see, see; but all that she could see, see, see; was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea ,sea (tap forehead); Yogini went to jai, jai, jai… (tap upper arm at bicep); Yogini went to knee, knee, knee (cross body tap of opposite knee); Yogini went to oowajawa, to see what she could oowajawa, but all that she could oowajawa, was the bottom of the deep blue oowajawa (rub tummy); now of four motions in order: Yogini went to sea, jai, knee, oowajawa…. (tap forehead, tap arm, tap knee, rub tummy). As kids get older, I have them start with one hand, switch as the song gets faster and then on the third and fastest time, keep switching hands.

Savasana: Body scan deep relaxation script

 

Create the scene for a quiet relax time.

Everyone please rest on your back or your tummy. Choose the one that you feel will be most comfortable. The one that will let you be restful and quiet. Breath in through your nose, like you are smelling a delicious flower or some yummy cookies baking and as you breath out through your nose, you can feel your whole bod, from head to toe, relax.

  • Settle into your space/bed
  • Breathe in, out
  • Notice how the breath in fills you up with air, like a balloon, and you feel light and free.
  • Feel how the breath out allows your whole body to soften and relax; you feel like your body is just a cloud floating in the big blue sky..
  • Can you allow yourself to be very still and quiet? This means your mouth is not talking, your body is not moving and your mind is not trying to figure things out.
  • Breathe in, out
  • I am going to tell you to think about various parts of your body. I do not want you to touch these body parts, just allow yourself to think about them. Bring the attention to their heads, arms/hands, belly, legs, feet/toes. Pausing to breath in/out between each body part. Tell them to feel light, free, happy, good, friendly, still, healthy, loving, lovable, whole, complete, perfect. Say nice things to them. Then be silent. Maybe for a minute. Maybe longer?

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¡Olé!IMG_2771

 

                                                    All written material is the sole property of Eve Costarelli, DBA Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement/ Eve’s Amazing Yoga/ ¡Olé Namaste!